The most rewarding day of my life was the day I knew for certain that the Buddha-Dhamma was real! This Dhamma changed my life completely. It could change yours, too. Each day is a day of thanks for the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, and for the privilege of being born within this Buddha Dispensation. What a wonderful opportunity and adventure!
The first edition of the little book “The Ānāpānasati Sutta: A Practical guide for Breathing and Tranquil Wisdom Meditation” was printed in 1995. Today the original text continues to spread worldwide. Hundreds of thousands of copies have been issued presently in 9 languages. It’s even been used in universities abroad as the guide for learning meditation. Most amazing is that the book has spread on its own!
The author, Most Venerable Bhante Vimalaraṁsi Mahāthera, is a thirty plus year meditator who spent over twenty years following the commentarial explanations on how to meditate before looking in the suttas. Then he practiced according to the suttas and having seen for himself the results do not match the commentarial descriptions, Bhante put aside the commentary as he was advised to do by an elder monk. From that point on, he followed the Buddha’s instructions as closely as possible.
For over sixteen years, he has dedicated himself to further investigations. He has been teaching anyone who would dare to ask the following questions directly: Did the Buddha actually find a way out of suffering in this life that was different from other meditation traditions of his time? If he did, how did he do it? Did he leave us precise instructions? Can it be done again in this day and time? Can this practice be taken into our daily lives? If so, what difference can it make?
Remember: Meditation is Life! Life is Meditation!
Following his enlightenment and full awakening, Buddha Gotama taught the Dhamma for a remarkable 45 years! This book is about the instructions he taught that have survived in the suttas, the discourses in the Pāli Canon that were taught by the Buddha to his followers. It examines “The Ānāpānasati Sutta” from the Majjhima Nikāya: the Middle Length Sayings.
This sutta teaches us Mindfulness of Breathing through Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation (TWIM). The instructions are repeated several times throughout the Pāli Canon using the same identical words. This repetition confirms the importance of these instructions. Sometimes phrases in a sutta indicate the instructions over again.
It is said that there are more than forty objects of meditation that the Buddha taught. However, all these forms dealt with one goal in particular, that is, reaching a clear understanding of the impersonal process of Dependent Origination and the Four Noble Truths. This book is about using the breath as the object of the meditation to do just that.
The result of this practice is seeing for oneself the true nature of things. Students who have put forth a sincere effort to follow these instructions precisely have made remarkable strides in their meditation progress.
Bhante Vimalaraṁsi brings these teachings to life using simple clear wording. To study with Bhante Vimalaraṁsi is a refreshing rediscovery of our inherent altruistic joy and an introduction to what, according to the Buddha, a guiding teacher should actually be. The Buddha indicates that a guiding teacher should be a sincere conduit of the Buddha’s words, emboldening his students to listen carefully, investigate fully, observe accurately, frequently question and confirm everything through personal experience.
Here’s the amazing thing. What the Buddha did is not mythical, strictly religious, or philosophical. It’s real! I’ve been investigating it for over eleven years now. It is a methodical scientific experiment which uncovers how mind’s attention moves and leads to the discovery of the true nature of how everything works in life. It piques one’s curiosity and alters our perspective. It becomes all too clear why this particular practice changed the world in the Buddha’s time.
Buddhist meditation is the compassionate groundbreaking discovery leading to a doorway that reveals a pathway for transcendence to peace. To make peace a reality, mankind only needs to activate this practice. The doorway is available just as it was in the time of the Buddha! We have to choose to go through it.
Bhante has been bold in his approach to the practice and continues to reach into the heart of the Buddha’s teaching with his own questions as he trains his students. He knows this is a journey you must personally take for yourself to reach a full understanding of this Dhamma. He sets the Dhamma Wheel in motion as you begin your journey and challenges you to make the effort to reach the destination for yourself.
If you work with Bhante as your guiding teacher, you will discover the true nature of suffering, how it is caused, and how to find great relief in this life. He offers you the next step each time you interview with him. Your progress is directly proportional to how well you follow the instructions, your accurate investigation through meditation, and your willingness to ask questions.
After 2600 years, the Buddha-Dhamma has become a bit diluted. This is to be expected with any teaching this old. It is important that we consider a slight realignment to get across to people today that “Meditation is Life and Life is Meditation”.
If we follow the Buddha’s last wishes and go to the suttas instead of recreating the teachings on our own, we will find that there are the same 37 requisites for awakening that, when clearly understood and fully experienced, can set us free. These requisites are like the threads set upon a loom, ready to be woven into a balanced cloth.
If these teachings are taught as separate “spools of yarn” sitting in a basket, the student may never realize that, when set upon the loom and woven together, a bright tapestry can be woven with a pattern of perfect symmetry and beauty that is the Dhamma Cloth! When these “spools of yarn” are studied apart from the loom, we have great difficulty realizing any finished product or understanding how this can help us today. But set upon the loom, in balance together, these “spools of yarn” give us the answers we seek: the true nature of how things actually are and how we can become happier living with this.
This practice is like a fine recipe. Don’t leave out any ingredients! Don’t change the instructions! Just do it. Find out for yourself the relief promised by the Buddha. Come and see!
Let this book be a guide to your deeper understanding of the Dhamma. Use it well and often. Pass it along to others.
Rev. Sister Khema
United International Buddha-Dhamma Society, Inc.
Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center and Anathapindika’s Study Park